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Gastroenteritis (cont.)

Bacteria (Clostridium difficile, Salmonella, Shigella, and Campylobacter, and E coli)

Bacteria may cause gastroenteritis directly by infecting the lining of the stomach and intestine. Some bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus produce a toxin that is the cause of the symptoms. Staph is a common cause of food poisoning.

Escherichia coli infection can cause significant complications. E. coli O157:H7 (one type of the bacteria) can cause complications in approximately 10% of affected individuals (for example, kidney failure in children [hemolytic-uremic syndrome or HUS], bloody diarrhea, and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura [TTP] in the elderly.

Salmonella, Shigella and Campylobacter

Salmonella, Shigella and Campylobacter are also common causes of illness.

  • Salmonella is contracted by ingesting the bacteria in contaminated food or water, and by handling poultry or reptiles such as turtles that carry the germs.
  • Campylobacter occurs by the consumption of raw or undercooked poultry and meat and through cross-contamination with other foods. Infants may acquire the infection by contact with poultry packages in shopping carts. Campylobacter is also associated with unpasteurized milk or contaminated water. The infection can be spread to humans by contact with infected stool of an ill pet (for example, cats or dogs). It is generally not passed from human to human.
  • Shigella bacteria generally spreads from an infected person to another person. Shigella are present in diarrheal stools of infected individuals while they are ill, and for up to one to two weeks after contracting the infection. Shigella infection also may be contracted by eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, or swimming or playing in contaminated water (for example, wading pools, shallow play fountains). Shigella can also spread among men who have sex with male partners.

Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile (C difficile) bacteria may overgrow in the large intestine after a person has been on antibiotics for an infection. Although almost any antibiotic can lead to this condition, the most common antibiotics that pose a potential risk for C difficile include:

Other risk factors for C difficile infection include hospitalization, individuals 65 years of age or older, and pre-existing chronic medical conditions.

The CDC lists C. Difficile as one of the most common causes of death due to gastroenteritis and suggest that new strains of the bacteria have become more aggressive and dangerous.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/31/2017

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Gastroenteritis is a nonspecific term for various pathologic states of the gastrointestinal tract.

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